Family and neighbors gathered Friday evening to remember Gilbert Kelly, 64, on the Grand Avenue block where he spent the past 20 years cleaning and was fatally shot on March 15.
Locals lit candles, shared stories about Kelly and sang R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” the last song they heard Kelly signing the night before he was killed. His family – which included four of his children, Iesha, Queen and twin sons Kingborn and Jamal Morris – said they were overwhelmed and touched by the turnout and support from the community.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Queen Morris, who brought her two sons, 18-month-old Keion and seven-year-old Kamari Miller, to the service.
Block resident Jessica Woods, who organized the memorial, said she estimated 100 people came to honor Kelly’s memory.
“I didn’t even know this many people would come,” Queen Morris said. “I wish I had met them on a good note.”
“He was a good, honest man,” Iesha Morris said. “You can tell just by how many people showed up.”
Locals remembered how Kelly would help them with odd jobs around the block, often while singing Motown classics.
“One year he got on the roof with me and helped me shovel snow off the roof,” Yvonne Seals said, who has lived on the block for 19 years.
“He was one of those people who managed to connect with everybody,” neighbor Bliss Broyard said. “He was the mayor of the block.”
Block resident Valerie Frances said she is collecting money from neighbors for a commemorative brass plaque and to cover any additional expenses for the family.
“He’s someone who helped the block, and we want to help him,” Frances said.
The funeral for Kelly will be held on Saturday, March 29 at Piro Funeral Home at 251 DeKalb Avenue. There will be a viewing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by the main service.